The notion of sacrifice within most religions acts as not only a show of faith but also as form of tribute to past biblical stories. From Islam to Judaism to western Christianity, various religions, even those in conflict with each other, share the significance of certain sacrifices that are still honored and hold relevance to this day. Of the more prevalent occasions is the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to show submission to God’s command. Though the details vary from one religion to the next the importance and power of the event remain strong to these communities. Each of these four religions have a different account or play a different part in the story.
The Muslim community celebrates Eid al-Adha to honor Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his first born son Ishmael. To commemorate this near sacrifice, Muslims willingly sacrifice their best domestic animals as Ishmael was spared with a goat taking his place. The meat is split into three sections with the family keeping a third and the other two thirds going to friends and family and the less fortunate, respectively. Those taking part dress in their finest clothes and have specific prayers for the event which lasts four days with a total of 23 prayers. The name Eid al-Adha translates to “festival of the sacrifice.”
In Judaism the story is slightly different. The story of the Akedah, or the binding of Isaac, is relatively the same except that instead of Ishmael, the son to be sacrificed is Isaac. This is seen as a test God had placed upon Abraham to measure his faith. As Isaac was about to be sacrificed, God stepped in and stopped Abraham offering a ram in his stead. Christianity agrees with this story but adds that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son due to his faith that God would then resurrect Isaac. Christianity also says this sacrifice either took place at the Temple Mount or at Calvary, where Christ was crucified. As mentioned earlier, due to the fact that the Quran does not give a name to the son to be sacrificed, the Muslim religion has speculated that the son was Ishmael. Despite different takes on the episode it is clear that each of these three religions holds powerful meaning and importance for this would be sacrifice or at least for the faith Abraham had in God to be willing to commit this sacrifice.
In addition to these similarities, there is also the question of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem mentioned earlier. As stated before, the Christians believe this site as a possible backdrop to Abraham’s sacrifice as well as the site where Jesus was found as a boy by the Jews. Due to this belief, many Christian pilgrims flocked to this site to worship in the place where “Jesus walked.” This led to hostility from Muslims which sparked the crusades by the Roman Catholic Church. Christians believe the temple will be rebuilt for the second coming of Christ. The Jewish believe that the Temple Mount is the place where God rested after creating the world and gathered “dust to create Adam.” They believe this to be holiest place on Earth and all prayers should be focused in its general direction. In Islam the Temple Mount is held as the site where Muhammed made his journey to Jerusalem and ascent to Heaven. He also instructed his followers to face to face the mosque during prayer similar to Judaism. Due to the holy significance to so many different religions, the Temple Mount has been the scene for many conflicts throughout the ages. As early as the crusades but more notably in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both groups see this site as belonging to their religion and are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to retain possession of it.
The poem Parable of the Old Man and the Young by Wilfred Owen tells the story of Abraham’s trial. Where the poem differentiates from the story in the Bible is what takes place after God intervenes to spare Isaac. Instead of Abraham sparing the boy for the ram he sacrifices Isaac anyway thus “half the seed of Europe, one by one.” This implies that anyone with faith in God should possess the willingness to also make sacrifices to show that faith. The actual killing of one’s first born is not exactly what is implied but that one must be willing to sacrifice some important aspect of their life to
prove they possess that faith. Works Cited
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